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Interview with Odile Verneaud

Exchange with Odile Verneaud, Sustainable Development Director, HARIBO RICQLES ZAN (EMBA -Intake 2013).


Bénédicte Germon : Hello Odile, can you tell us more about yourself and your background,        

O: Hi, I am Odile VERNEAUD, Sustainable Development Director for Haribo France. After a Master II a long time ago (1989) at Burgundy Business School, I started an Executive MBA at Kedge in September 2013. I am based in Marseille, in the Tower La Marseillaise, next to CMA-CGM. At Haribo’s French Executive Committee, we have decided to keep the initial name of ‘Sustainable Development Director’, and not ‘CSR Director’ in order to strengthen our willingness to continuously develop and improve. However, whatever the title, only the mission matters.

BG : Can you tell us what brought you to KEDGE EMBA?

O: I was previously Controlling Director and was a bit tired of monthly reports, quarterly Business Plans, annual closings and other routines. I saw the tsunami of Sustainable Development arriving and thought that Haribo was late on these issues.  Combined with what was perhaps a ‘middle age crisis’ (smile), I wanted to go back to school in order to start a new career. CSR became obvious for me at that time, and KEDGE was in a good position with respect to Sustainable topics.

BG: What have you been up to since you ended the programme? 

O: I started a very different mission on a large scope including responsible offer (i.e. naturalness of recipes, reduction of sugar, vegan offer…) and communication (daily portion, EU Pledge…), environment (of which the main issue of plastic reduction up to alternatives to plastic, HR issues (diversity, well-being, health and safety…), relationship with external stakeholders… Gradually, I am implementing the CSR strategy, previously proposed to and challenged with the Board. Thanks to the Grenelle II Act context and the following laws (Accord de Paris then SUP, Agec, Egalim, Climat and Résilience in progress…), France has been a pilot on many topics, compared to other Haribo subsidiaries. Even compared to the German mother company (knowing that Haribo is still nowadays a 100% family-owned Group, not listed with a fierce will to remain independent). Each day is a new one: diversified and challenging but for a noble goal: contribute to preserve our planet and push Haribo into this path.

BG: How did the EMBA help you with your career?

O: The EMBA allowed me to create my own department within Haribo France, since Sustainable Development did not exist in 2013. I used my EMBA training and Entrepreneurship specialisation to convince the Board to create this position and lead it! I transformed entrepreneurship into intrapreneurship. Even if CSR courses were not as sharp in 2013 as they are today, it gave me legitimacy and self-confidence to start from scratch and implement a –successful- CSR approach.

BG: Briefly, what are :
-    your main takeaway from KEDGE EMBA: 

O: You’re stronger in a team than alone! Diversity is a fantastic asset.

BG: -    Your best memory from KEDGE EMBA: 

O: The international seminar in Mumbay, first time for me in India. A cultural shock!

BG: -    One project you are willing to share (professional or not): 

O: Be a Hummingbird! Take your part of the challenge because each small action is useful for the protection of our environment. We have only one planet to share with 9 billion inhabitants. Once, says the legend, there was a huge forest fire. All the terrified animals, dismayed, watched helplessly the disaster. Only the little hummingbird was active, fetching a few drops with its beak and throwing them into the fire. After a moment, the armadillo, annoyed by this derisory agitation, said to him: "Hummingbird! Aren't you crazy? It is not with these drops of water that you are going to put out the fire! And the hummingbird to answer: "I know that, but I'm doing my part."

BG: -    A passion you wish to share : 

O: Enjoy each happy moment! 

BG: What are the new business trends that currently fascinate /interest you?

O: I have been working for several months with BeMed, an association created by the Prince Albert II foundation, Tara Oceans, Surf rider foundation… that gather some industrials and scientists to look for solutions to eliminate plastics waste from the Mediterranean Sea. A rich and constructive dialog to settle concrete experimentations.

BG: How you transformed a failure into a success: 

O: I try to find positive impacts even it’s often hard. ‘Unfreeze, change and refreeze’: I also try to put into practice the course by Michael Miles (Change Management). Another takeaway from my EMBA!

BG: Odile Verneaud, thanks a lot for your time and views! 

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